Chances are, by now, if you didn’t watch last night’s utter debacle in Trinidad, you’ve at least heard that the US Men’s National Team laid an egg in their last crucial qualifying match and will now miss the 2018 World Cup in Russia. There’s no equivocating about it, that’s very bad. Very, very bad.
The World Cup is like a gateway drug for soccer – it’s probably how many of you first experienced the game and wanted to come back for more. I know that was my experience. While the greatest event in sports will still go on without the Yanquis next summer, and will still undoubtedly be great, there will be a lot less interest on this side of the pond because the USMNT isn’t in it.
There are certainly some US fans that believe that missing the World Cup is a good thing, that it’s the wake-up call US Soccer needs to start doing things “the right way.” In terms of the USSF and its administration of the sport here, maybe that’s true, maybe it isn’t. But the bad things about this result massively outweigh the good. Kevin McCauley at SB Nation details out the likely fallout from this disaster in this article better than I could, and I get the feeling there’s even more to fear than his six or seven points.
How do we handle this nightmare scenario that is now a reality? Like politics, soccer is local, and has its greatest effect at the local and grassroots level. One of the nice cards Louisville City has in its pocket in this stadium district development deal, for example, is that all of its forty-plus owners live in or very near Jefferson County. If you’re interested in preserving and growing this great game, it’s going to take some personal effort at the local level.
Get involved. Develop strategies to spread the game to the underserved parts of your community. Start a foundation to raise money to build futsal courts or buy soccer goals and balls for your local park. Join an adult recreational league. Start a weekly pick-up game. Take a coaching course; US Soccer offers an F license for free on the internet. The National Soccer Coaches Association of America offers coaching courses, too. Volunteer with a youth club or a school team. Hell, start your own. Run for the board of directors for the Kentucky Youth Soccer Association, or the Kentucky Soccer Association. Learn the Laws of the Game and become a referee – you’ll learn something, make a little money, AND get some exercise!
Soccer will survive in this country, of course. It survived before the internet, it survived the original Soccer Wars before World War I, it survived the death of the NASL, and will survive this. Sure, this is a sizeable pothole in the game’s road to success in the US. But, like anything else, the measure of one’s character is how you handle adversity. Take this shot to the gut, get up, and kick some ass going forward.